Like a Leica?
Pete Lincoln proves beyond reasonable doubt that the Leica Geovid BRF.. (Binocular Rangefinder) can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’
In January I had the opportunity to visit the Leica factory in Solms, Germany.
I was there to meet Boris Bender and Michael Agel, from Leica Sport Optics. We discussed several shooting related topics. Both where very interested in the Stalking and Shooting Sports scene in the UK and are very keen to promote Leica products within the British Isles.
Michael gave me a guided tour of the factory, explaining the various production processes of cameras and binoculars in detail. I had always wondered why Leica products where just that bit more expensive than the competition. Touring the factory the reason became apparent. Each and every unit is produced and assembled individually, lenses are ground and polished singularly or in pairs and not in thousands like many mass-produced offerings available from the far east. A quality control measure is implemented at every stage of production, with a Leica product you get something that is essentially custom built, either in Germany or Portugal. Leica are certainly deeper into Quality than Quantity.
The main reason for my visit was to discuss the field testing of one of Leica’s new combined binocular / laser range finder units, the Geovid BRF. Previously Leica produced several Range Finders in different formats, ranging, no pun intended, from the golfing version of the Range Master to the full blown Military version Vector. Geovid isn’t a new name in the Leica line up, a scaled down version of the Vector, with fewer functions was previously available, however price and weight limit its usage by every day sportsmen and women. Certainly most stalkers and shooters are by now familiar with one form of range finding device or another, the Leica Rangemaster 1200 Scan being considered by many ( my self included), the best available.
Now as good as the 1200 Scan is in its own right, I always found it a bit of a nuisance to have to carry a set of binoculars and a range finder. Not that the weight was too much, but I was prone to loose the LRF out of my pocket, leave it in the jeep or at home. Not to mention stalking around the woods looking not unlike a Japanese tourist. I even duck taped the LRF to the top of my Steiner Night hunters at one point, far better would be a combined Binocular Range Finder.
Enter to Geovid BRF.
A week after my visit, a 10x42 Geovid BRF arrived in the post. It’s a well-known fact that if anything can be broken, a Soldier will break it, hence the term “Squaddie Proof”. After 10 years service in the British Army I considered my self qualified to put the Geovid through a torture test and see just how good the unit performed.
Discussing the aspects of my intended torture test with my wife, we happened top be having breakfast when the postman delivered the package containing the Geovid.
I’d mentioned wanting to test the waterproofing and my wife suggested I cycle the unit through our dishwasher. What an idea ! I figured that if the Geovid could withstand the dishwasher, then it could with stand the worst that Scotland’s weather could throw at me. I’ve once too often had a weeks stalking almost ruined by fogged up optics and these days I refuse to use anything that is not 100% water tight. I’d like to point out that the dishwasher had just been cleaned out, contained no detergent or salt and “please don’t try this at home!” The Geovid passed with flying colours, no leaks, no fogging.
The next step of the testing was to compare the optical quality to my Steiner Night HunterXP 7x50 and a friends Swarovski 10x42 EL binoculars. In the absence of any scientific test equipment, I enrolled three stalking friends to give a second, third and fourth opinion. Testing was done using our varying aged No 1 Mk 1 eyeballs. We could all just detect a slightly sharper image quality in the Leica in broad daylight.
For normal stalking activities, from dawn ‘till dusk the Leica Geovid excels. In fact my 3 friends where so impressed, each one has since sold whatever they had previously used and have a Geovid on order.
I have a stalking permit on a two hundred hectare block of German State Forest. The area contains a difficult to manage, almost entirely nocturnal population of Wild Boar. Waiting in a high seat or stalking, at night, is the only feasible method of culling. During he first February week we had a light fresh covering of snow, perfect boar-stalking conditions.
I decided to see just how well the Geovid performed in the dark. An unfair test for a 10x42 binocular perhaps, but at dawn, dusk and especially in the middle of the night, optical quality is most apparent.
I carried my Steiner 7x50 Night Hunter XP for comparison. Stalking through the woods, looking even more like a Japanese tourist, I didn’t expect the Geovids to perform as well as the larger Nighthunters. But I did get a pleasant surprise. Although the image was darker in the Geovids, which is obviously a product of the higher magnification coupled with the smaller objective lens, it did however provide a sharper image with slightly better contrast. I have no doubt that the 8x42 Geovids can certainly hold their own against the larger 7x50 Steiner’s.
I located a group of Boar at the far end of a long meadow and got a reading of 485m on a large Sow. I stalked into the woods attempting to intercept the pigs. An hour later I shot a nice yearling pig. A re-supply of meat for the freezer and the Geovids performed admirably in a scenario they certainly weren’t designed for.
I continued abusing the Geovid in the form a drop test, just to see how much abuse the Geovid’s could take and to simulate something that has happened to me often, dropping my binoculars from a high seat.
I ranged objects varying in range between 350 and 700m. I then dropped the unit out of a high seat window 5 times direct onto the forest floor from a height of around 4m. Certainly the covering of leaves took some of the impact out of the drop, but I figure I gave the innards of the Geovid a good old shaking up. Ranging the same objects again I got exactly the same readings. The Geovid’s are shock proof.
Cold and Dirty
Next up was cold weather performance. I figured the next abusive test was to have the unit spend time submerged in the mud and water of our garden pond. I submerged the Geovid’s and left them there for 3 days. The thermometer dropped below –15 Celsius during the next 2 nights. I had difficulty retrieving the unit and had to dig it out in a block of muddy ice, thawing it out in the kitchen sink under the hot tap. The unit suffered no apparent ill effects but I expect constant minus temperatures would reduce use full battery life.
Going The Distance
I put the Geovid through its paces over several weeks, ranged a multitude of objects from wild boar, to deer, cars and road signs. The Geovid are capable of ranging from 10 to 1200m, I got readings on Roe Deer as far away as 980m and on road signs out to 1200m. I honestly tried to make Geovid malfunction, short of driving over it or knocking nails in with it. I failed.
I was so impressed that I sold my Nighthunters on eBay and ordered a Geovid. The Geovid BRF 10x42 proved to be “Squaddie Proof”, taking every form of abuse I threw at it, or threw it at. But this isn’t a rough and ready looking instrument, it is sleek, refined and handy, whilst just oozing quality. As an all round binocular, I would recommend the 8x42. I would use the 10x42 in a more specialized role, perhaps on the open hill. I’m sure some will find a use for the 8x56 version, these being the optimal in field of view and low light performance. Having the rangefinder combined into the binocular is just so much more practical than carrying 2 separate units. I also have it on good authority that the British Army will be buying several Geovid BRF units for issue to Sniper Teams.
The Geovid BRF housing is made of aluminum and is fully rubber armored. Handy and quiet rubberized plastic covers protect lenses. Focus adjustment is via a wheel in the rear centre position and the ocular cups are adjustable to accommodate spectacles. The range finder function is operated by a button on the top left of the unit and the laser is situated within the central hinge. The unit comes with a comfortable neoprene strap in a tidy cordura case. Blaze orange buoyancy strap and tripod adaptors are available as accessories. Power is via a single C2R battery located on the underside left housing, the cover has a coin slot for battery removal / replacement. Both units are available in either a yards or meters version, it is however not possible to switch between the two measurements. Make sure your order the right version for your mathematical persuasion.